A good carpenter knows his tools – and if you’re a trader, your charting software is your most important tool. So get to know it, inside and out.
I’ve been using TradeStation for nearly 20 years! And before that I used SuperCharts, which was the forerunner to the TradeStation charting platform. Based on that experience, here are my top suggestions and answers to 18 of the most frequently asked questions about using TradeStation. Use the links below to jump to a particular topic:
- How to backup your TradeStation charts and EasyLanguage files
- Why use “continuous” futures contracts
- Why use 1440 minute intra-day charts instead of daily charts
- What ‘Format Symbol’ settings should I use
- How to setup Hot Keys for frequently used functions
- How to setup Hot Keys for workspace and window pointers
- How to setup Hot Keys to move between charts
- Why link chart windows with the same symbol
- Why use Analysis Groups in TradeStation
- Why you need to rationalize and standardize your charts regularly
- How to change indicator settings quickly across multiple charts
- How to change the text size in TradeStation
- Why you need the fastest Internet connection possible
- How to access TradeStation through a Firewall
- Why you might need to re-load your cached data
- How to tell if your Internet connection is “glitchy”
- Why you should read the TradeStation manual
- How to get more answers to TradeStation questions
- How to learn TradeStation EasyLanguage
How to backup your TradeStation charts and EasyLanguage files
You’ve heard this before from me – backup, backup, backup. Think it can’t happen to you? Your hard drive fails or you get burgled. Save yourself the stress and plan for disaster.
TradeStation has a backup capability in-built. Set this up to run automatically, every week, at 3am so it doesn’t get in your way. In addition, every month I export and save all my EasyLanguage files using the export wizard. These are saved on my hard drive and then I use Google Drive to automatically backup all my hard drive files off-site, in the cloud.
There’s a full explanation in this article: Trading Backup Plan – My 7 Step Plan for Hardware Failure
Why use “continuous” futures contracts
I see so many charts from traders where they’ve plotted the current futures contract (e.g. ESZ19). That’s great but they have to change it at rollover. If you use the “continuous” contract version (e.g. @ES) instead, the rollover happens automatically – plus all the history is already on the chart.
Why use 1440 minute intra-day charts instead of daily charts
Particularly useful for getting volume data quicker. End of day volume data is delayed – the exchanges don’t release it until well after the close. But if you use a 1440 minute intra-day chart (1440 minutes = 24 hours) then you’ll get the running total volume traded and know what the daily volume was before it’s released by the exchange. Sometimes the exchange makes some adjustments to the figure but it’s usually pretty close.
In addition, on a 1440 minute chart TradeStation splits the day’s volume into “Up Volume” and “Down Volume”. “Up Volume” is volume traded at the Ask price and can therefore be considered aggressive buying. “Down Volume” is volume traded at the Bid price and can similarly be considered to be aggressive selling.
By keeping track of this “real” buying and selling volume you can keep track of the strength of a trend. Breakouts into trend typically start with a large volume of aggressive volume. And trends peter out when the buying volume backs off, even as higher prices are printed.
So this “real” buying and selling volume data is really useful.
What ‘Format Symbol’ settings should I use
The TradeStation ‘Format Symbol’ settings tab causes some people a few problems. This is easily fixed.
Make sure your settings are “For bar building, use: > Session Hours” instead of “Natural Hours”. In that way, TradeStation knows the start building bars at the beginning of the trading session, instead of using whole hours.
Then make sure your settings are “Time Zone: > Exchange”. So that timestamps on your charts reference the exchange time, rather than your computer time. This is just a convention that traders use, so there’s no confusion when comparing charts from traders in different locations and time zones.
Lastly, I use 5,000 bars back for history on the chart. This gives my indicators plenty of time to reach “steady state” when calculating and updating.
How to setup Hot Keys for frequently used functions
Hot Key settings can be found under View > Hot Keys. I have Hot Keys for new workspace, new window, copy/paste window, workspace pointer, window pointer, change workspace, change window, etc.
You can move around TradeStation so much more quickly by using the built-in or your own custom Hot Keys.
How to setup Hot Keys for workspace and window pointers
If you use multiple time frame charts you’ll often want to see where you are. Set up a Hot Key to add a pointer that shows where you are on all the charts open in a workspace. I use “]” for showing the pointer in all windows (or charts) in a workspace. And I use “\” for showing the pointer in just one window (or chart).
Useful for reviewing history and seeing what was happening in each of the different time frames. I use this at the end of every day to review the day’s Emini trading and setups.
How to setup Hot Keys to move between charts
Easy one here and already setup with the default TradeStation settings. You can select the workspace you want to view with control + page up/down. Then select the window (or chart) you want to be live with control + tab. Finally, change the bar spacing with the up and down arrows.
Why link chart windows with the same symbol
The symbol window link (“S” in the top right of each window) will join together different time frame charts of the same symbol. If you change the symbol in one chart – all the other charts will change too. Very handy if you want to look at a sequence of symbols in different time frames. For example, daily, weekly and monthly charts for swing trading stocks. Or in the case above, 3 tick charts – 500, 1,500 and 4,500 tick.
As well as linking symbols, you can also link timeframes. Use the interval window link (“I” in the top right of each window) to join together different symbol charts of the same timeframe. For example, you could have all the major indices (S&P500, Dow, NASDAQ and Russell) set up in charts and then toggle between daily views, weekly views and monthly views.
Why use Analysis Groups in TradeStation
Combine your favorite indicators and their settings into an Analysis Group so you can add them to a chart all in one “hit”. You can also add this indicator group automatically to any new chart you start.
Right click on a chart takes you to a number of options – including the Analysis Group settings.
Why you need to rationalize and standardize your charts regularly
We all do it – try out different indicators, look at different markets, add complexity to our analysis. But “analysis paralysis” can be deadly – day trading decision making needs to be fast and having conflicting indicators or markets will just tie you up in knots.
My suggestion is to regularly go through your charts and delete the ones that are not essential – do you really need that chart of the Japanese Yen versus Swedish Krona?
Then create a standard indicator Analysis Group that you use for all charts and all time frames. It should have the minimum number of indicators with all the settings just as you like them. Then apply it to all your charts – you’ll become quicker at reading your charts and you’ll see tradable patterns repeating. For me, the ultimate is just having one chart with all 3 of the Better indicators and trade entries and exits signaled – and nothing else. One day…
How to change indicator settings quickly across multiple charts
Difficult to explain this one, but I’ll try. This is a very useful way of making global updates to things like indicator colors, lookback periods, etc.
EasyLanguage indicator code: 200 Day Line
Variables: Length(200), HighColor(Red), LowColor(White);
Value1 = Highest(H,Length);
Value2 = Lowest(L,Length);
Rather than go into every chart you’ve added an indicator to and changing the colors, etc. – you can do the same just by changing the EasyLanguage code once and re-verifying the indicator code. Just make sure the things you might want to change are coded as “Variables” and not “Inputs”. See the example code above.
How to change the text size in TradeStation
I often get asked this question: “How do you change the default text size in TradeStation?” Well, here are the steps:
- Select Drawing > Text
- Write some text on your chart
- Right click the text and Format the font, size and color
- Tick the “Set as default” box > OK
- Right click and Remove the text
- Ctrl + R will update the chart with the new text formatting
Plus any new chart will have the new text formatting.
Why you need the fastest Internet connection possible
Your biggest bottleneck is not your computer processor speed, RAM, hard disk drive, operating system, etc. – it’s your Internet connection speed. Let me try and explain. Indicators are very simple – just a calculation loop that is repeated at the close of a bar normally. And computers are very good at doing repetitive calculations very fast.
Take the example of a dated computer running something like an Intel Core i3 at 3GHz. This processor will execute 50,000+ MIPS or million instructions per second. That’s 50 billion instructions per second. Now it takes a few instructions for the processor to execute a full calculation, so 50 billion instructions is roughly 5 billion CALCULATIONS per second.
Now let’s compare that to your typical home Internet connection speed. Let’s assume you have “basic” cable and you’re getting a download speed of 4 Mbps – that’s 4 million bits per second or 0.5 million bytes per second. So your processor is capable of running 5 billion calculations per second but your Internet connection is only delivering 0.5 million bytes of data per second.
Your computer processor is capable of running 10,000 times faster than your Internet connection!
Now I’m not a computer engineer and some of my assumptions might be out – but I’m sure you get the picture. Ever wondered why Goldman Sachs wants to co-locate it’s computers next to the exchange’s computers? Now you know. The days of upgrading your RAM, computer processor and graphics card are over – they’re moving at warp speed compared to your basic Internet.
And when you’re measure the speed of your Internet connection, don’t forget to measure to the server delivering the data – not your local server. In my case this is the difference between measuring the speed to a Sydney suburb in Australia versus Texas (where the TradeStation data servers are located). Measure network latency as well as throughput. They both impact response time. A few years ago:
- My local Sydney server gave results of 60+ MBps throughput and 10 ms latency.
- The Texas servers gave results of 2-4 MBps throughput and 250 ms latency!
How to access TradeStation through a Firewall
If you’re behind a Firewall, when you try and log into TradeStation you’ll be told you are not connected to the Internet. Then TradeStation will just cycle through continually trying to get a connection but fail. You can use the Terminal application to check by typing “telnet 126.96.36.199”. This is asking to make a telnet connection to one of the TradeStation data server IP addresses. If “Unable to connect to remote host” comes back then you’re definitely behind a firewall.
To bypass the firewall here are the specific instructions you need the network administrator to action. It looks complicated but to a network guy it should be straightforward.
Alternatively use a VPS, which stands for Virtual Private Server. Effectively this is a virtual computer, connected directly to the Internet backbone and hosted by an ISP. You access this virtual computer through any computer with an Internet connection (what we used to call a “dumb” terminal) using Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection (or other Mac OS X app).
The beauty of this approach is that your virtual computer has a very fast connection to the Internet and trading data – plus it can be very highly spec’d and only running your trading platform. Hence getting maximum performance. Then your terminal computer just needs a minimum Internet connection to “see” and control the virtual machine.
Why you might need to re-load your cached data
This is one of most useful fixes I know of – particularly for heavy users of Tick charts, like me.
If you find your tick charts slow to load, then your cached data may be corrupted. Alternatively, if you have a poor Internet connection with “micro-outages” your tick charts may show gaps. Both of these problems can be fixed by re-building your cache. Here are the steps in TradeStation:
- Shut down TradeStation
- Find the cache folder at C:\Program Files (x86)\TradeStation 9.5\Program\Cache
- Re-name the cache folder to something like Cache_Old
- Re-start TradeStation and open some of your charts
This will force TradeStation to access the historic data on their servers and re-build your data cache. Try to do this out of hours, not during the trading day, as the data downloading will be slow. Try it – it works like a treat every time.
How to tell if your Internet connection is “glitchy”
Again, if you’re a heavy user of Tick charts like me, you need to know that you’re receiving every “tick” of data in the data feed. If your Internet connection and/or WiFi signal is “glitchy” you’ll experience “micro-outages” and data packets will be lost, technically called “Jitter”. There are various online tools for measuring packet loss and Jitter, including this one.
But TradeStation also has a very useful built-in function that can help measure “micro-outages” and tell if you have a problem. A chart of the symbol ‘==BYT’ shows TradeStation bandwidth usage (in Kbits/second) every second.
Keep this chart running during the trading day session (with your usual tick bar charts for trading also open) and if the indicator line plotted ever hits zero, you’ll know that you just missed some data. The odd zero plot shouldn’t be a concern, but if you are showing multiple, consecutive zero plots then your Internet and WiFi connection are poor – and you’ll need a fix!
You can also be alerted whenever you have data glitches by adding the Data Flow indicator by JRG to the ‘==BYT’ chart described above.
Why you should read the TradeStation manual
It’s terribly unfashionable to read manuals these days – it should all just work and be totally intuitive, right? Wrong. Charting software is some of the most complex out there and literally takes years to master, particularly if you write your own code.
But getting answers is a lot quicker these days. Manuals usually come in PDF or online format and are searchable. Forums are an amazing resource – and one of the keys in deciding which charting software to use – make sure you’ve bookmarked yours. If you’re having a problem or curious about how something works in TradeStation, I guarantee there’s a forum thread or article written about it.
Real-time if you notice your data not updating or one of your charts doesn’t look right – check the forums (or Twitter) first. The exchange might have done something, other traders might have identified the problem too – you’re not alone out there.
(Note: TradeStation Network Status has never worked for me in showing problems real-time. It invariably shows all green lights and everything is working fine. Not.)
How to get more answers to TradeStation questions
Can’t find it in the manual? Don’t read manuals! Then use Google instead.
Type this into the Google search box
site:https://tradestation.com “search term”
This will restrict the Google results to just the TradeStation site, including the very useful TradeStation forum. Alternatively search for “search term” plus TradeStation or EasyLanguage.
How to learn TradeStation EasyLanguage
All traders need (at least) basic coding skills. TradeStation EasyLanguage is great – simple enough to pick up quickly and complex enough to do some pretty nifty analysis. Sure, sure, you C++ and C# coders can do anything – but for me it’s too hard. Plus I’m an old dog and stuck in my ways.
Here are some TradeStation EasyLanguage resources to get started:
- TradeStation EasyLanguage PDFs
- TradeStation EasyLanguage video tutorials
- Martyn Whittaker video tutorials and guides
- TradeStation Forum (you need to be logged in for access)
- Search function in TradeStation Forum
- Listing of EasyLanguage specialists
If you’ve never coded – give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised how easy TradeStation EasyLanguage is.
So there you go, I hope you found these time saving TradeStation tips and tricks helpful.